The late Richard John Neuhaus used to say that disagreement is an achievement. He was speaking about the basis for democracy, for the fact that when we disagree, we are at least speaking to one another and engaging in a civil discourse -not in a violent clash.
That kind of disagreement is the hallmark of a free society. It's what enables us all to cheer when the 101-gun salute that signals a peaceful change of administration is fired near the Capitol on Inauguration Day. In all too many countries, the 101 guns are fired at the Capitol.
We are in danger of not achieving Rev. Neuhaus' kind of disagreement about health care. Nobody should mob Members of Congress or shout them down. By the same token, Americans with serious and well-thought out objections to the health care takeover proposed by our representative government should not be demonized by national leaders as Nazis or sneered at as being too well dressed.
It does not help to have President Obama dismiss legitimate concerns about taxpayers being forced to pay for abortion-on-demand through his health care plan. Asked by Katie Couric about federally-funded abortion in his health proposal, Mr. Obama indicated he didn't want to "get distracted by the abortion debate..." The 3,000 unborn children aborted daily are a "distraction?"
Family Research Council has offered abundant evidence that unless abortion is specifically ruled out, it's ruled in. The argument that the word "abortion" does not appear in the bill, and is therefore not part of Obama's plan, is specious and absurd. As FRC's Tom McClusky points out, you won't find "tonsillectomy" in there, either, but no one doubts that it is a covered procedure. You can read powerful proof that abortion is in there in Tony Perkins' Washington Update here: http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=WA09H17#WA09H17
Members of religious groups who deny abortion is in the Obama proposal are risking their credibility. What would become of them if their supporters, believing their denials, were confronted with the hard reality of taxpayer-funded abortions should Obama's plan become law?
President Obama has a habit of downplaying the importance of this question. When asked by Pastor Rick Warren last summer when an unborn child is entitled to human rights, Obama airily dismissed the question saying the answer was "above my pay grade." It was as if the fate of 1,200,000 human beings killed each year was not a matter worthy of serious moral consideration. Now, he is making decisions that affect the very existence of those lives directly - whatever he thinks his pay grade is.
Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius was the most pro-abortion governor in U.S. history. Today she is President Obama's choice to lead the agency that would supervise the health care takeover. She is now below the President's pay grade. Yet she would be empowered to mandate abortion coverage under versions of the health care bill making their way through Congress. Can anyone seriously doubt which way she or her aides would come down on abortion?
Planned Parenthood -or, as I prefer to call them, Planned Anti-Parenthood -- is tying itself in knots trying to deny that abortion is in the health care bills, while still keeping the support of pro-abortion zealots who won't back the plan unless it provides for abortion funding.
The late Lawrence Lader, the co-founder of NARAL, said: "Abortion is central to everything in life and how we want to live it." Such people are not going to be happy that their champion, Barack Obama, is calling their version of reproductive rights "a distraction."
Why can't we have honesty in this debate? Why can't those who--like Lader, like Planned Anti-Parenthood -- profit from abortion and who think abortion is good and right and necessary stand up and make their case for its being included fully and comprehensively in nationalized health care?
I will disagree with them. My friends and I will oppose coverage for abortion-on-demand. But at least that disagreement-as the late Rev. Neuhaus said -will be an achievement. At least then we could work against dishonesty in this debate.
Then we can have a candid discussion about those whom Mr. Obama considers a distraction, the little ones who nestle in their mothers' wombs, waiting to be welcomed into life.
Kenneth Blackwell is a former Mayor of Cincinnati, Secretary of State of Ohio and is a Policy Board Member of the American Civil Rights Union.